Controversial opinion: Italian food is just about perfect! Right ratio of sweet to savoury; liberal use of good wine and liqueurs; and, of course, enormous amounts of delicious carbs. The best restaurants in Rome have mastered the art of pleasing their patrons over centuries.
If you lose weight while travelling around Italy, you’re doing it wrong.
But with all that great food floating around, how can you be sure you’re sampling the best bits? Especially in Rome, where the number of restaurants, tavernas, trattorias, gelaterias and caffes almost outnumbers the tourists buzzing around each sight.
I was lucky enough to have some good recommendations from Roman friends and one especially OTT taxi driver (shout out to Marco!) who all took great care to make sure I ate only the very best during a recent trip.
These are my top 13 Italian restaurants in Rome:
Monti | Via dei Capocci, 4
Everything a good Italian trattoria should be: reasonably priced, generously portioned, delicious and served with litres of good, house red!
Tettarello is worth travelling for.
Try the lasagne, the gorgonzola drenched beef steak and/or a calzone the size of your head.
But whatever you do, be sure to finish with the tiramisu. The zabaglione here is extraordinary!
(And yes: no excuse to use the word “zabaglione” will ever be passed up.)
2. Ristorante Arlú
Vatican | Borgo Pio, 135
No one has ever come out of the Vatican Museum or St. Peter’s without hankering for a meal, and the strip of restaurants along the Borgo Pio have been making a living off those hungry pilgrims for centuries!
Arlú is perfect for settling down to digest all the culture, art and sculpture: friendly staff, bustling Italian atmosphere and good food.
Keep an eye out for the truffle ravioli.
3. Ai Marmi
Trastevere | Viale Trastevere, 5
The Trastevere area of Rome, just south of the Vatican, has always had a reputation for being a bit rough and tumble, but it’s been gentrified over recent years and has become one of the most exciting areas of the city for bohemian culture and good, honest Italian food.
Ai Marmi is a perfect example: great pizza at reasonable prices. But, if you can get your hands on the some of the rare, fresh arancini then you’ll truly have found your Italian food heaven!
Trastevere | Via del Politeama, 23
Should Ai Marmi turn you away, or you’re looking for something more substantial than their typical pizzeria fair, then look no further than this great taverna.
Good Italian food, prepared the way your Nonna wishes she could make it.
Colosseum | Piazza del Colosseo, 3
Over the years I’ve taken far too many pictures of the Colosseum; and I’m a rubbish photographer. I just can’t help myself. It’s too picturesque. Too photogenic.
And judging by the perpetual crowds of people, I’m not the only one who thinks so.
When faced with all these tourists, where can you stop for a bite without being either crowded in or overcharged for a reheated lasagne?
I was lucky enough to stumble across Martini & Rossi on this most recent visit. While I was attracted by the view, the staff were exceptionally accommodating and charming, the prices weren’t too steep and the food was fantastic!
Pantheon | Piazza Capranica, 104
If you’re on the look out for a classier, Italian restaurant in the centre, try this one, just a bit off the well beaten track around the Pantheon.
A great selection of wines and all the typical Italian dishes you’ve been on the look out for. Their artichokes are particularly worthwhile.
Campo Marzio | Via del Leone, 4
Real Romans eat here. Say no more, right? If you want to hob-knob with genuine Italian TV celebrities flying under the radar you’re as likely to find them enjoying the crowded anonymity of Matricianella as in a studio.
The food here is good, but the real star is the cellar. If you ask the staff (and the owner has any time), they’ll be thrilled to give you a tour of the extensive underground cavern with an enormous collection of wines from all over Italy. Truly, one of the greatest collections of any restaurants in Rome.
Importantly, they know how to drink it too! Each of the waiters doubles as a sommelier and will be more than happy to recommend a great wine for any budget to suit your mood and your meal.
8. Zio Ciro
Spanish Steps | Via della Mercede, 43
If you find yourself getting peckish after stomping all over the Spanish Steps then you could do worse than stopping off at Zio Ciro.
NB: There are a few Zio Ciro‘s still listed on Google that have been “permanently closed”, and this one hasn’t been marked at all. But they were still there when I gorged myself on some quite tasty lasagne.
San Saba | Via di S. Saba, 28
This was a lucky find for me. San Saba is not an area most tourists go to; unlike almost everywhere else in Rome, there’s not a lot to see here (although I bet there’s plenty to be dug up). It’s an area between the Baths of Caracalla and the Aurelian Walls –– it’s the only reason I was there and I was starving.
And there was Angels & Demons; an unprepossessing pizza place, typically Roman in its set-up: long pizzas about a foot wide and 3-4 feet long are pre-prepared, you order transverse slices of whichever flavours take your fancy, which are then reheated in the ovens and served up at something like €2 a slice.
And these pizzas are delicious!
As with so much food tourism, getting away from the tourists and finding the popular little places where the locals really eat will render some spectacular results. Don’t be put off by the spartan appearance, Angeli E Diavoli are one of the simplest and best restaurants in Rome.
10. La Villetta
Pyramid | Viale della Piramide Cestia, 53
Back on the main road, nearby to San Saba and on the way to the Porta San Paolo (and the extraordinary Roman funerary monument: the Piramide di Caio Cestio), you’ll come across this Roman trattoria.
It feels more primed for the tourist trade of the area, but don’t be scared off by that: these chefs won’t lead you astray.
They’re especially proud of their desserts, so be sure to save some room. Once again, the zabaglione is well worth the price of admission.
Via Veneto | Via San Nicola da Tolentino, 26
If you’re looking for a special restaurant for a slightly pricier night out, you can’t go wrong with Tullio.
They specialise in seafood (and feature an ornate, fresh seafood display, so maybe not the best high-end option if you’re a devout vegetarian).
12. Pizzeria Da Remo
Testaccio | Piazza Santa Maria Liberatrice, 44
If you’ve not yet quenched your need for genuine Roman pizza, then you have to make a visit to Remo.
This genuine wood-fired pizza oven, with their thick, sourdough bases look more like the pizzas that have been exported all over the world.
The rich choice of toppings and high quality of the ingredients all ensure that these will be among the tastiest pizzas you’ll find!
Termini | Via del Viminale, 44
The big sister and original of our no.7 pick. La Matriciana serves the same good Italian fare, but without the flare of the uptown Campo Marzio atmosphere.
As one of the oldest surviving restaurants, and for the food and wine they make the list, but personally, any trip to Rome that avoids the swarm of spivs and pickpockets Termini Station is a better trip!
If you are planning a trip to Rome, or you’re already there, be sure to check out our tips on how to travel in luxury for less, as well as these handy tools to make sure you have everything you need as easily as you need!